About the Blog

I will post a new entry every few weeks. Some will be new writing and some will be past work that has relevance today. The writing will deal in some way with the themes that have been part of my teaching and writing life for decades:

•teaching and learning;
•educational opportunity;
•the importance of public education in a democracy;
•definitions of intelligence and the many manifestations of intelligence in school, work, and everyday life; and
•the creation of a robust and humane philosophy of education.

If I had to sum up the philosophical thread that runs through my work, it would be this: A deep belief in the ability of the common person, a commitment to educational, occupational, and cultural opportunity to develop that ability, and an affirmation of public institutions and the public sphere as vehicles for nurturing and expressing that ability.

My hope is that this blog will foster an online community that brings people together to continue the discussion.


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Tuesday, August 18, 2020

“It’s Not Wants That We Want, It’s Needs”

This is a lightly edited transcription of an interview with Sandy Villatoro, a hotel housekeeper from Arizona who was laid off during the pandemic. Her husband is a roofer whose income has suffered. The interview aired on August 6, 2020 on NPR, one week after the expiration of the $600.00 per week augmentation to unemployment benefits. I’ve removed most of the reporter’s introduction and framing questions because I wanted to highlight Ms. Villatoro’s comments, for she expresses in a plainspoken, heartfelt way the difficult situation so many are in and the worries that trouble their sleep. 

Within her individual story, within each expression of anxiety or determination or longing, lie the societal issues that characterize our time — present before COVID and exacerbated by it — and make life precarious for so many: economic instability, affordable health care, housing insecurity, the many manifestations of the digital divide, chaotic and inhumane immigration policy. And within Sandy Villatoro’s story, running through her sentences with the rise and fall of her voice, is an unassuming dignity, so often challenged as people seek a grip on an increasingly tattered social safety net in an increasingly unequal society. 


“Well, at first I didn’t want to apply for unemployment because, uh, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but I have DACA, and my husband is also petitioning for me. So I didn’t really want to apply for unemployment benefits. But then, I’m on a group on Facebook with a bunch of DACA recipients and they are [telling me], ‘No, uhm, unemployment has nothing to do with that. It’s paid by your employer, so you should be fine.’ So I was like, okay, maybe I should because my bills are piling up, my husband’s check wasn’t enough for all the bills that we had before I was laid off. And I had a lot of bills from when I had my daughter – still coming in from the hospital. It was all just coming so fast that I couldn’t keep up with it.” 

“Honestly it [the $600 per month] helped me pay for all the bills that I had. I actually used some of that money to pay ahead on my car. So I thought ahead, like with all the money that I was getting from the six hundred, I was paying ahead … just in case, you know.”  

“I’m going to have to work with what I can and ask them [the lender] if they can, you know, help me with a couple months where I don’t have to pay it.” 

Reporter: What are your biggest expenses?

“Mostly our house. We’re renting a house and that’s a thousand dollars a month. I had to get internet service for my son since he started going back to school, and the service we had before was the cheapest one. So we had to get another better one ‘cause the one that we had before was not working for his remote learning. So it’s not like wants that we want, it’s needs. We need a vehicle to get back and forth. We need to live under, you know, under a roof.” 

Reporter: It sounds like rent is a worry… especially with a new baby.

“Especially in this heat! (laughs) I don’t want to be having to move house to house in the heat. I don't want to be homeless in this heat. So it’s really hard. We just want someone to listen to us. We’re not lazy people. We’re hard-working people that just need a little bit of help for now.” 

“Honestly it [the possibility of being homeless] is [a big concern], it is. I’ve stayed up nights just hoping that some miracle will come, that I don’t have to resort to that. Or, you know, having to ask someone to let me stay with them for a little while while I get back on my feet. I feel so vulnerable. I hate asking for help. I hate asking for hand-outs, but it’s, you know, it’s something I need at the current moment. My kids need it. It’s so hard to even say I need it.” 

Reporter: As you’re looking ahead to the next month or two, what worries you most?

“Just losing my mind (a soft, sad laugh) and losing my house – losing everything that I worked so hard for. I mean, I want to go back to work. I worked every day for five years at the current job that I’m at. It’s so hard just… not to see myself working anymore, you know. I just want to get back to normal, is pretty much what I’m trying to say.”